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Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ

General Technology (UPB Related) Questions


  1. What is UPB (Universal Powerline Bus)?
  2. UPB is a highly reliable, cost effective, 2-way communications technology that enables intelligent control of lighting and appliances with no new and/or special wiring. UPB utilizes the existing powerline to communicate control signals throughout the house.  For more information see About UPB Technology.


  3. Why is UPB significantly better than X10?
  4. Although UPB and X10 each use standard powerlines to communicate, the underlying technologies of each are significantly different. First, X10 uses a fixed carrier frequency to communicate data. Carrier frequencies traveling on household power wiring are subject to attenuation and noise interference, which can cause intermittent reliability issues.

    UPB utilizes a patented communications method called Pulse Position Modulation (PPM) that is based on timed pulses rather than a carrier frequency. Using pulses for signaling means (a) less attenuation on the powerline and (b) less susceptibility to RF interference. In addition, there is a difference in voltage strength: an X10 signal is 4 volts at its strongest level; while UPB is 40 volts, or 10 times stronger. The end result is faster and more reliable communication, especially when transmitting over longer distances.

    Another difference between the two technologies is that the transmission packet for UPB allows more data to be communicated over a much wider address space. This enables a higher level of control and far less potential of interference between adjacent homes. Lastly, UPB is a two-way communication protocol, whereas X10 is primarily unidirectional. Two-way communication allows the system to verify that a given message was successfully received.


  5. Why is UPB a superior technology compared to RF-based communication?
  6. Although very reliable, RF-based automation has certain limitations. First, the radio waves are easily obstructed by physical structures made of concrete, brick or steel. Compensating for these obstructions requires multiple repeaters throughout the structure to assure reliable signal strength, which can make an RF system very expensive.

    Second, radio transmitters must be placed in plain site for optimal signal strength, and they are not always aesthetically pleasing. Simply Automated’s philosophy is that wireless solutions are ideal for untethered household devices (such as remote controls, telephones and laptops), while using wired solutions for fixed devices will help avoid interference related to RF oversubscription.


  7. How long has UPB been available for lighting control and automation?
  8. Simply Automated and our UPB switches were first launched in 2003.  The company, technology and product line and solutions are ‘ultra-reliable’.  See About Simply Automated.


  9. How many devices can be used in a UPB system?
  10. The UPB address space is a two dimensional array based on a Network ID number and a Unit ID number. The address space covers 250 networks per power transformer and 250 UPB devices per network. In a normal residential installation, the house would be assigned a single Network ID (analogous to a “house code” in X10 terminology), and the devices would then be assigned sequential Unit ID numbers from 1 to 250. Any device may communicate directly with other devices that share the same Network ID.


  11. What are ‘scenes’ and how does UPB address them?
  12. ‘Scene’ is a term used in the lighting control industry to describe specific lighting events. For example, you can create a ‘viewing scene’ for your home theater or an ‘entertainment scene’ in your dining room. When the scene is activated, a UPB command is transmitted on the powerline and the appropriate lights will respond by brightening or dimming to the proper level. No central controller is required to make this happen. Most UPB devices can be included in up to 16 different scenes.


  13. What are ‘Links’?
  14. ‘Links’ is a UPB term to describe a channel of communications linking transmitters and receivers in a lighting system. A link essentially represents a scene. A transmitter sends a ‘link command’ over the powerline, which contains a “link number” from 1 to 250. Receivers within the network domain are programmed to listen for and act upon certain link numbers. Receivers can take different actions (i.e. dim a light to a certain level at a certain rate, turn the light on or off, etc.) depending on the link number received. Because of the “link” structure of UPB, one powerline command can affect up to 250 devices simultaneously.


  15. Are there any interference issues with UPB?
  16. UPB overcomes most electrical noise that can be generated by AC-powered household lighting and appliances, and is far less susceptible to noise interference than any other powerline communication technology on the market. UPB can coexist with nearly all powerline carrier and lighting control technologies, with the exception of Lutron HomeWorks ®.


  17. What is Gen II UPB?

    Gen II UPB is (essentially) a marketing campaign by a competitor designed to confuse (and distract) people from the (significantly better) functional advantages of Simply Automated products and solutions.

    Simply stated, Simply Automated patented dimmer switches, patent pending Inverting Phase Coupler technology and noise/attenuation isolators provide better performance and solutions at a lower (in most cases 50%+) price than any competitor in the lighting control and automation marketplace.

    All of the key features listed as Gen II improvements had already been incorporated in Simply Automated products three years before the release of Gen II UPB.  Gen II UPB requires a signal repeater for many applications to improve performance in attenuating environments – rarely required using Simply Automated products and solutions.


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